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The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has rejected the inclusion of a government-run insurance option in legislation aimed at reforming the nation's health care system.

After hours of debate, the committee Tuesday voted against amendments proposed by Democratic Senators Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Charles Schumer of New York to include a public option. 

Supporters of the public plan say consumers need a low-cost alternative to private insurance companies.  But the plan has encountered fierce opposition from members of the public and from conservative Republicans, who argue that such an option will force private insurers out of business.

Opponents also say the public option would lead to socialized health care in the United States.

The Finance Committee has been considering numerous amendments to a 10-year, $856-billion overhaul plan offered by Montana Democratic Senator Max Baucus, the committee chairman.

He introduced his proposal nearly two weeks ago, after spending several months unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a compromise between a handful of Democrats and Republicans.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as well as three committees in the House of Representatives, have passed health care reform bills that include an optional government-run insurance plan.

President Barack Obama and Democrats have said they are determined to pass a reform bill before the end of the year.  

Some information for this report was provided by AP, Bloomberg and Reuters.